Have you ever suffered with depression or know someone who has been plagued with this mental illness? According to the World Health Organization, depression is on the rise globally and more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from it.
As a Registered Acupuncturist always emphasizing the Chinese medical importance of aligning your health with the changing of seasons, I have been treating depression in the clinic for years. From this experience I would like to share 5 ways to help you free yourself or anyone you know once and for all from the grip of depression:
"The opposite of depression is purpose" ~ Cathy Heller
When I first heard this quote I was elated at how simple and true it is! I especially see a lack of purpose being a key contributing factor to depression with kids and young adults who are not finishing the things that they started or who drop out of everything so that they have more 'free' time. A lack of purpose can often be seen in those that retire and think they just want to do nothing after a lifetime of working hard. They soon find out how integral their schedule and purpose was to their sense of contribution and happiness. Those who retire without having hobbies or somewhat of a routine and appreciation of schedules might find it really beneficial to seek help with how they will constructively fill their days. Without purpose we lack motivation and the desire to start and complete even the most basic things.
One of the main patterns underlying depression is stagnation from a lack of consistent movement. Exercise helps move our Qi and gets us in touch with our vitality as well as releases feel good endorphins that enhance our sense of wellbeing. Exercise also boosts our confidence and gives us the chance for more social interaction with people who are potentially more positive. It can be challenging to get moving consistently so start with something attainable like a 10 minute walk around the block once a day. Notice how good it feels to be outside in the fresh air and moving your body.I generally see a history of self-criticism and even perfectionism within those that suffer with depression. I find personally and professionally that focusing on progress is much more constructive than striving for perfection and a lot more inspiring too. Perfectionism can be so paralyzing! Mindfulness, which refers to a non-judgmental awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings, enhances our self-worth and self-esteem and caters less to our inner critic.
Self-criticism often comes from comparing ourselves to others and not feeling 'good enough' about who we are. What you see is NOT always what you get. The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence. Our mind will naturally try to compare but we must hold reigns on our monkey mind and embrace everyone’s uniqueness rather than try to mimic or be ‘better’ than it.
"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken" ~ Oscar Wilde
Speaking of mindfulness, let us be present with which season we are in and the natural qualities that come with it. Right now in the northern hemisphere, nature appears to be cold, frozen and at rest with limited hours of light, long dark nights, animals hibernating, a time of introversion. Up until the winter solstice the days will continue to grow darker. It is the most yin time of the year. In the yin yang symbol, the darkest shaded part is the most yin aspect of the symbol. In this deep stillness of nature, winter calls us to look into our depths, to reconnect to our inner being, to befriend the darkness within us and around us. This season is an entry to our inner world and is most accessible during this time of the year. Many opportunities exist to replenish ourselves in this time of rest.
If we can accept that we are nature, we can give ourselves permission to explore our dark side, our shadow, our innermost depths with love, compassion, acceptance, curiosity and openness. We need not resist the opportunity to quiet down, settle in and welcome all aspects of ourself, the light, the dark and everything in between. And always remember and note in the yin yang symbol that there is always light within darkness and vice versa, darkness within the light. In fact we would not know light without experiencing darkness. Check out this blog to learn more about yin and yang.
So while this is a more introverted, calm, quiet, melancholy, still time of year with very different energies than summer, where we may feel more happy, vibrant, extroverted, and active, we must simply accept where we are at any given time and not wish nature was different than it is.
Suffering exists in the space of resistance. Flowing graceful with nature and accepting its energetic qualities is crucial to maintaining mental and physical balance and peace within.Accept all that is arising for you and others with kindness, compassion and love. Dive into yourself fearlessly and advise yourself as you would a 7 year old child refraining from judgement, comparison, and criticism. We are here to fully feel in this life. We need not numb ourselves with medication, abandonment, withdrawal, avoidance, detachment or division.
Rather, process your inner world with the help of yoga, meditation, writing, art, more sleep, acupuncture and even talk therapy to name a few.
In the name of self-love, self-worth, self-respect, self-awareness, and out of reverence for our unique and special opportunity to be fully human, may we always strive to align with nature and be at peace in our hearts.
I love you.